“The Thing I Wish I’d Known:
-I love you doesn’t come with any guarantees.”
Aftercare Instructions was one of those books that I went into expecting to like, but not love as much as I did. It was probably one of the best books that I’ve read in 2017, and maybe one of the most emotional novels that I’ve read to date. It’s not the kind of book that had me crying the entire time that I read it, but it was one of those books that made me actually feel throughout every single chapter – from sadness to happiness to anger and back again, all while throwing in a bunch of other emotions, too.
The main character of the story, Genesis, finds herself at a family planning clinic with her boyfriend, Peter, with the intention of terminating a pregnancy that neither of them wanted or were ready to face. Peter has always been wonderful and loving toward Genesis, and she felt that she needed him and would be with him always – that is, until he leaves her there while she is having the procedure, which causes her to need to find her own way home and to deal with the abortion by herself, as well as the after effects and emotions that she would be faced with.
Not only does Genesis already have the reputation of being “troubled,” she now has to face that reputation alone with only her best friend for guidance – and she finds herself having to deal with the breakup with her and Peter, even though she is in no way ready to move on.
“There aren’t any instructions anywhere on what to do when your dad dies like he did and then your boyfriend leaves you at Planned Parenthood while you’re getting an abortion. Where are those instructions?”
Perhaps one of the neatest things about this book is the fact that during all of this, there is also a four act play going on in between the chapters of the book (which are actually titled by “aftercare instructions” themselves). During the acts of the play, we get to revisit some of Genesis’s most precious memories, which make up her entire relationship with Peter, from the first time they met onward. This part of the book is creative and full of vital information for the reader, as it allows you to really get inside Genesis’s head and see what makes her character tick. I think this interesting part of the book was probably my absolute favorite aspect, as it’s rare to see books written this way and it’s a creative way to incorporate memories.
Another thing I loved about this book was Genesis’s character herself. She is full of emotions and she tries her hardest to be a good person, despite all of the stuff that she’s been faced with over the years. I can’t imagine having what happened to her happen to me, and I honestly thought she was a strong character. Genesis is someone to look up to, and I hope others who read her story can think of her that way, too.
I didn’t care too much for Peter’s character, as it was obvious that he only thought of himself and what he wanted, but it’s obvious why his character was written the way that he was, and I think the author did a splendid job tearing his and Genesis’s relationship apart, and then allowing the reader see it develop through the memories. It was a creative way to weave all of the parts of the story together.
“No one will hurt us. This is the most bullshit advice adults ever give. There’s so much that will hurt us; it’s how we take care of ourselves afterward that matters. The aftercare.”
I love that Aftercare Instructions doesn’t focus on making things better magically or making it seem as though these things don’t actually happen to real young adults (and older adults, too!) everywhere. Instead, it brings to light the things that really do happen, and that while it can feel quite emotional at times (or all the time, in the case of this book), things do happen, and they do need to be dealt with. Giving positive messages that essentially, everything negative does eventually pass, is a great way to help others through some messy situations that they may feel alone in.
I can’t praise this book enough. I know some people will dislike it and refuse to read it because it deals with abortion, but you have to realize that it deals with SO much more than that. Sure, the main character has an abortion in the beginning of the book, but that isn’t the main focus here. The main focus is what happens afterward. After the procedure. After the character’s relationship falls apart. After she is betrayed and has to learn to trust again. After she has to figure out who she is and what her place in the world will be.
Aftercare Instructions is amazingly written, heartbreaking, beautiful, and one of the most gripping books that I’ve read this year.